Carlos Dunlap is Seahawks' latest attempt to trade for a better defense

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RENTON, Wash. — One question facing the Seattle Seahawks as the NFL’s Nov. 3 trade deadline approached was this: How could they address their most glaring need and acquire an impact pass-rusher with as little as they have in the way of cap space and draft capital?

Maybe the better question was this: With as vulnerable as their defense has been, how could they not?

General manager John Schneider did what he had to do on Wednesday, sending backup offensive lineman B.J. Finney and a seventh-round pick to the Cincinnati Bengals for two-time Pro Bowl selection Carlos Dunlap and the remainder of a contract that’s paying him $7.8 million in base salary this season.

“Like I tell you, John’s in on everything he could possibly know about, and when there was an opportunity there, he jumped on it to see if we could work something out,” coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday. “We’re always looking. There’s other guys that were out there that we’ve been looking at as well in all spots that are available. The names start to pop up here this time of the year, so this was one that fit exactly what we needed and really pleased to get it done. Glad to bring a guy of Carlos’ stature and background to this club.”

Dunlap is the latest player the Seahawks have acquired via trade to bolster their defense since they began transitioning from the Legion of Boom. Adams, Jadeveon Clowney, Quandre Diggs and Quinton Dunbar are other defenders they’ve traded for since the start of last season to try to bolster a defense they’ve had difficulty replenishing in the draft.

Clearly, the Seahawks see Dunlap as a still-impactful player who didn’t fit the long-term plans of Cincinnati’s new regime as opposed to someone whose diminished role and production indicates the decline of a 31-year-old player. Dunlap has one sack in 263 defensive snaps this year after averaging eight over his first 10 seasons.

“There’s been some issues or whatever and that’s their story,” Carroll said of Dunlap’s departure from the Bengals. “I don’t know that it has anything to do with what’s going on here. I’ve talked to him. He’s really excited about being part of our program and getting him in here. … He’s been a stellar dude for a long time in that program and whatever happened happened, but it’s a fresh start for him here.”

Carroll confirmed that a player acquired this late in the week couldn’t clear the league-mandated COVID-19 protocols in time to play Sunday, when the Seahawks host the San Francisco 49ers. That means Dunlap won’t make his Seattle debut until Week 9 at Buffalo at the earliest.

If only they could have had him since Week 1.

The Seahawks’ defense has looked suspect enough to derail Super Bowl aspirations, even though they’re getting MVP-caliber play from quarterback Russell Wilson and have plenty of offensive firepower around him.

The Seahawks have managed only nine sacks in six games. That puts them on pace for fewer (24) than last season (28), when their lack of a pass rush was their biggest Achilles’ heel during an 11-5 season that ended in the divisional round. The Seahawks didn’t register so much as an official quarterback hit in their overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals this past Sunday, even with Kyler Murray dropping back to pass 49 times. They’re 16th in Pass Rush Win Rate but 29th in pressure rate, according to ESPN charting.

That’s been a big reason why they’ve allowed the most yards (2,875) through six games in NFL history. Carroll made no secret of that reality when he was asked Monday for his assessment of defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. and his defensive staff.

“I’m in there too with them,” Carroll said. “So I’m all part of that. I’m not separating from anything here. We have to keep working to put our players in the best positions to be aggressive and to be effective, and we need to help them more in our pressure. We did not try to get after them very much [Sunday] night. That was not part of our plan going in, and when we needed it, we needed to adjust and I wish I would have got that done. Kenny and I are … working that stuff out.”

Carroll’s two main points were that 1) Seattle’s coaches can do more to scheme their way to pressure and 2) the pass-rush problem should be alleviated when certain players get back on the field.

Jamal Adams could be back as soon as this weekend. The Seahawks were taking full advantage of the All-Pro strong safety’s blitzing skills before he went down with the groin injury that has kept him out since Week 3. He’s still tied for the team lead in sacks … with two.

Other defensive linemen who could help are Rasheem Green and Damon Harrison, though Harrison is a run-stuffing defensive tackle as opposed to a pass-rusher. The Seahawks are hoping second-round pick Darrell Taylor can play at some point this season, though expectations for him would be limited. Green is an ascending player who is far from an established Pro Bowl-caliber pass-rusher like Dunlap.

Bruce Irvin was the closest thing Seattle had to that before he went down in Week 2 with a season-ending knee injury. That has forced the Seahawks to play Benson Mayowa more than they would like. Dunlap’s addition will help keep Mayowa fresh, as both play the LEO end in Carroll’s defense.

“Carlos has been a very, very consistent player for a long time,” Carroll said. “He’s always been fast, he’s always been athletic. He still moves his feet well and gets off the rock and knows exactly how to play the spot we want to play him in. It was exciting to share that with him.”



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